The Widow or Widower Next Door

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Be Sure You Know What Happy Looks Like ~ You Wouldn't Want to Miss It When It Returns

The year before my husband's sudden death was problably the happiest I've ever known.  I plan to be happy again. At least, now I know what it will be like. I don't want to miss it!



Know What Happy Looks Like


Open to Hope ~ Grief Diaries Authors Gather to Talk About the Book Series

Some of you know, some of you don't, that I have the great honor of participating in several of the Grief Diaries books. Recently, some of the other authors, and our project leader, Lynda Cheldelin Fell, gathered in New York City to appear on the "Open to Hope" TV show. What a perfect venue to discuss these books of hope! They talk a little about grief, a lot about healing and more about how the book project came to be, as well as future plans.


The show runs about a half an hour, and I do hope you will take the time to watch these engaging, inspiring and sometimes funny ladies. To watch, just click on the link below:


All of the books are available for purchase right here on my website at in the store.


Thanks for watching!



Baby Boomers...

Baby Boomers in Grief


Always Remember to Forget

This lovely little proverb was given to me by a friend. My family, who are Irish, liked it so much that we incorporated it into my Dad's service, and then again in my husband's, as well. We wrote the first two lines on a smooth stone for my father, and put it on the "cairn" for him. Mom has a matching rock with the second two lines waiting for her. My husband's friends recieved pewter cups with this proverb engraved.


It memorializes them and gives good life advice.



Last One Standing....Mother's Day Contemplations

Mother's Day has long been weird for me, as I have no kids of my own. I always honored my own mother, and with my Dad, made an effort to let her know she is loved.  When I met my husband came along, even thought my stepsons were grown, and a hot mess, he always honored me on Mother's Day for what I tried to do, the efforts I made to be a postive influence in their chaotic lives. I think he mostly spoiled me on Mother's Day for making our house a home.


I just came back from a visit to my Mom, who lives in another city. She's not doing well. At 86, her body is betraying her. She has great difficulty walking, even with her walker. Her bodily functions are no longer predictable. Her memory fails her often, as vascular dementia sets in. It's hard to see to her care when she lives so far away, but even harder when she battles me over every suggestion. Once fiecely independent, a quality my Dad encouraged in both of us, she rails against surrender of any kind. At the same time, her decision making skills and self-care skills are dwindling. She really should move from independent living into assisted living. I'd love to have her close to me, but she can't fathom a move down the hall, let alone one to another state. At least she have help keeping her medications straight in either place. But no.


She's scared and confused. She's also mad as hell at the world, and I can't say I blame her. She's begun giving her possesions away. That's never a good sign.



My Dad is gone now, and so is my husband. . It's just me and Mom now It wasn't supposed to be that way. I'll likely be the last one standing, and when I am? Who will see to my Mother's Day?  The prospects are not sunny yellow, Mom's favorite color rose.  God promises that he has a plan greater than mine. Guess I'll have to lean into that.I


Traveling safely

This weeken I have a pleasureable journey in so many respects. I attended a wedding last night in Richmond, Va. The daughter of a decades long friend  married a wonderful  young man who is clearly smitten with his new bride. It cinched it for me when I spotted him on the dance floor with other women, three of them, to be precise. He was dancing with the bride's 4 year old daughter and 2 other little girl friends. Yup! He's a keeper!


After having a fine time last night, I'm off to see my Mother in Baltimore. She's 86 and declining. I'm worried about her. My cousin from Pennsylvania is meeting me there. We need to get our visits in while there is still time. I don't get to see Mom as much as when my hubby was alive. There are several reasons for that. It gets expensive to pay for dog care while I'm gone, when once my husband took care of that, or we traveled with them. Two dogs on the road, now, is two dogs too many.  He's also not around to share the driving. And there's the question of where to stop for the night.


This trip, I chose to stay at a B & B where I've stayed before. It's a lovely place, here at the Viginia Cliffe Inn, but again, it gets expensive.  Sure, I could stay at a cheap motel off the Interstate, but I wouldn't sleep a wink.  I've always felt safer in B & B's, like I am staying in someone's home, as I often am.  There are so many considerations, now, when I travel, that I didn't have to worry much about before.  No wearing jewelry that might attract attention, where I stop for gas or a bite to eat. Making sure my car goes to the shop for a pre-trip check up. No rooms near elevators or staircases. I post check-ins on Facebook, so that friends know my progress, and that I made it to my destination.


Things have changed.  I travel safe....I hope.





Ladies who Lunch. Grief and a New Social Structure

Many things surprised me, upon being widowed. Many things beyond just the shock of losing the love of my life so suddenly. I was very much taken aback at the swiftness of the changes in how friends and relations treated me. My experience is hardly unique. I've heard many other widows and widowers speak of this. Suddenly, we are persona non grata. Not welcome where we once were.


One of the first indicators was how quickly the invitations to join other couples for dinner stopped....dead. Screeecch !!  The message was clear. Now widowed, I must be on the prowl for a "replacement" man, in the form of somebody else's husband. I actually saw one neighbor grab her husband's elbow to steer him away from me; an unconcious act, no doubt. Nothing was or is further from the truth. Dating and romance and intrigue was and is the furthest thing from my mind. I miss my husband, never more so than in the evenings. That's when my day slows down and memories and thoughts creep into my mind. That's the most enjoyable time I shared with my Pat, as we discussed the events of the day over a glass of wine and then dinner. That is the loneliest time....the evenings. Being cut out of the herd in the evening with other couples was excruciating, and in my mind, cruel.


Lunch invitations were abundant. All those wives patted themselves on the back for their good deeds of extending lunch invitations. They were just sure they were being noble. Spare me! Lunch was difficult. It lands in the middle of what are very busy days for me; an interuption to work that needed doing. Lunch time company I didn't really need. And, in a way, but not the way those ladies thought, they were right!  I miss the company of men!!!  I miss conversations with my husband, my Dad, my uncles, my grandfather, my co-workers.  The normal world contains men. Men have interesting things to say. Men have a different perspective. My world ceased to be normal, and I don't like it. Just because I don't wish to date, don't want a boyfriend, doesn't mean I wanted men erased from my life.


Three years later, it's improved, but not much.  I have a few, very few, friends who realize I'm not out to take their husbands, ladies who are secure enough in their marriages, that they include me in gatherings now and then. I have some contractors and service people with whom I can chat. That's allowed because I write them a check.


In the vaccum of normal, I have lunch with the ladies. In fact, I'm lunching with a lady today. A lady who is not threatened when I speak to her husband, now and then.



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Remembering the Unforgettable

Just about every new widow or widower I've talked to frets about forgetting memories, forgetting things about their loved ones. Certainly, in the fog of grief, it seems we will lose our memories, as it seems we are losing our minds. I know I worried about it a great deal. My time with my husband was way too short; I didn't want to forget a minute of the time we shared. I didn't want to forget the love we shared.


My husband died a short time after New Year's, in fact the last photo taken of him was at a New Year's Eve party. Around that season there is always a lot of talk about resolutions and fresh starts. Recently, it has become popular to start a "memory jar" at the first of a new year, saving all the happy memories and events that occur in the brand new year in a jar, to be reflected upon next New Year's.


I had an idea. What if I started a memory jar that looked backwards, instead of forwards? What if, as they occured, I wrote down my memories of Pat on a slip of paper and saved them in a memory jar? Not trusting them to memory only, I would have a permanent record of all those moments that made me smile. All those times Pat surprised me, all the times something was especially funny, all the struggles we came through together and stronger as we did. What would that jar look like? Here's what I came up with:


I made one. Nothing fancy, just a simple jar with slips of paper. And I recorded my memories. That did several things for me:


* I relaxed about forgetting those moments. I had them written down.

* The act of writing them made me happy each time I did

* Once written, I felt more free to live in the present; not dwelling so much on the past

* If I'm having a bad day, I can reach for that jar and quickly lift my mood.


I've given several similar jars to other grievers, and I'm always heartened to hear how happy it makes them to be able to preserve their own memories.


You Hold the World Today...

Many decades ago, long before I contemplated marriage in any real way, I read where famous reporter Nancy Dickerson gave her view on a good marriage. She said "My idea of marriage is when I say to my husband 'Here, I'll hold the world on my shoulders today, you hold it for me tomorrow.'  ".


Through the years and two marriages, I came to understand what she meant. Some days we just get world weary. Things aren't going well at work, an elderly parent needs care, the bills are piling up, and houses always need some sort of repair.  In marriage, while we still have to contend with that demanding boss, look after that parent who has fallen, find a way to pay those bills and get the fallen tree removed, it just seemed easier with a mate at my side to share the load. Someone to "cover me" while I took a nap.


It seems such a luxurious idea now to simply have someone else around to answer the door, pick up the phone, let the dogs out. And when trouble comes? That's when I really miss my Atlas husband.  Little things that add up to big things.


I had two funerals to attend this past weekend, back to back. Two of my neighbors died, both too young, within a day of one another. People occassionally remark, as they did this weekend, that they never see me cry. I refrain from telling them that I'm afraid if I got started, I'd never stop.  The pall that hung over the neighborhood was nearly tangible. I can't tell you how much I would have enjoyed having my tall, sturdy, handsome husband by my side to lean into, if only for a little while.


I imagine myself turning to him and saying "Here Sweetheart, you hold the world today". The world is my oyster, and it gets heavy holding it up all by myself.



Grief and Thank You Notes, and Why We Should Write Them...


I mentioned that we've had a death in the neighborhood. Actually, we've had two. Another one right after the first.


They brought up the whole business of death-in-the-family rituals for me. One of those rituals is having the bereaved send thank you notes to all who sent flowers, brought casseroles, put up out-of-town guests.  


I've seen a lot of people comment on widow's sites and in books that the grieving certainly shouldn't be expected to write thank you's when they've never felt more devestated in their lives.  I see the logic behind that argument, but I still vehemently disagree. Here's why:


With every note I wrote, I was reminded of someone's kindness to me. In a world where there isn't much of that, it should be rewarded. With every note I wrote, I became grounded, if only for a moment, that despite my loss, there were still things and people to be thankful for.


While I wrote everyone of my own, it is perfectly acceptable to have someone else help you with them, maybe do the actual writing. I urge grievers to be involved in the process, however, maybe sitting with the person who is executing the note. Why?


Because it's therapeutic. It does the griever as much good to give thanks as it does the recipient to get thanks.


Go forth and be thankful....  It will get you through.



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